It’s snowing right now outside my window. The town is quiet, the skies grey. The ground is wet from yesterday’s melt, and the old snow sits waiting, hard and icy under new powder.
I thought I might be doing some more traveling during this Nor Tari break. Offices and schools are still closed; stores have just opened in the last couple of days and are selling the food they had before the New Year, still waiting for new stock to come in on trucks from the capital, from Georgia and Iran.
My friends, two Fulbright scholars who live and work in Yerevan, came to visit me and stayed for three full days of tea-chatting, game playing and spontaneously dancing to the occasional spicy beats coming from my iTunes on shuffle.
While our days were fun, the nights turned pretty sour for me. While the two friends were slumbering peacefully some type of sore throat sickness turned me into a night zombie. You know what I mean; it’s that thing that happens when you’re sick enough that you can’t sleep. You toss, you turn, you sit straight up in bed and pound the mattress hard with a terrible frustration. Your mind spins one line of a song on loop or you mid-sleep dream your way into a totally crazy scenario where you are finally shocked awake by your own octopus arm wringing the neck of a baby goat. Then, fully awake again you flex your legs as hard as you can because now, at 3am aka the ungodly hour, you are fitful and restless.
After a couple of these kind of nights, I decided to give in to the Awake and I sat up in my bed, knitting and listening to podcasts while my friends slept.
On their last morning I sent them off and then collapsed into my chair with the sudden weight of having hardly slept in days. And this, this is how I encountered the last couple of days during which I have sat mostly alone.
When you’re alone in your own cottage in the middle of a quiet town surrounded by snow and ice, you think. And I have a lot to think about. I’m going home in something like six months. Six months. This feels incredible to me.
I am thinking about going home. Home. What does that mean? Who lives there? What do I do when I arrive?
Before this week my going-home ponderings have focused on luxury. Visions of coffee shops and laundry machines and donut holes and city libraries swirled in my head. But after these last days alone, listening to podcasts, thinking about the US, reading the news, I’m much more harrowed at the idea of re-entering the American fray.
Today I was visiting with my friend who pointed me at that latest news out of the States, the tragedy in Arizona. I know that reports are still streaming out of every news machine orifice, that the story will be chewed on to exhaustion. While our hearts go out to the families and communities affected, we brace ourselves for the debates to come, the shouting from opposing squares of the tv screen. My friend also pointed out the current bill proposition attacking birthright citizenship, which will join discussions of the Arizona shooting.
I looked at her after reading these and said, “Oh god, what are we going back, too?” The United States is the home of the free and the brave. But honestly, it’s also the home of the scared and the scary, the worried and the hating, the fear-mongering, the industrial-food-pushing, the hate-preaching, the vitriol-blasting, and the super-greedy. So many people I meet dream of going to the US, imagining the hope that it somehow still represents to many struggling people all over the world.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve grown up. In my young adult years I’ve traveled to many places outside the US; I’ve seen fear and hate pull tight the thin fabric holding communities together. I’ve seen some of those community fabrics tear, seen the most lonely souls spill out. And before I thought that such fear was primarily a non-American modality.
But lately, from another hemisphere I’m looking at that place I’m soon going to land, and I think, ‘Brace yourself. That country you love, it’s churning up something wild and scary. Yeah, hold onto those fleeting flowers, those bits of beauty back home. But you’re going to need to roll up your sleeves because if we don’t all start doing some heavy loving, if we don’t start reaching out to each other, those loneliest souls are going to start falling away.’
In a lot of ways I am very happy to be going home. But in some ways, I am realizing that it will soon be time to be a small but active part of healing our wounded country.